EP4: Stuart Murray: In Hearkening the Dead: A Rhetorical Disaffirmation of Biopolitics


Manage episode 323391313 series 3270223
By Ryan Leack & Ellen Wayland-Smith, Ryan Leack, and Ellen Wayland-Smith. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Stuart Murray, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Rhetoric and Ethics in the Department of English Language and Literature at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, shares his talk with us, “In Hearkening the Dead: A Rhetorical Disaffirmation of Biopolitics,” which he describes as follows: Foucault defines biopolitics as the differential state power “to make live and let die.” The politics of life is, ironically, a sacrificial economy that produces death as its silent compact, its law. Those we let die rarely figure in our biopolitical “affirmations.” They are tendered as line items and statistics: collateral damages, opportunity costs, daily pandemic death counts. COVID-19 is an object lesson in differential dying, affirmed by the state as much as by the anti-mask and anti-lockdown protestors. How, then, might we on the Left suspend our impulse to criticism—perhaps even despite our own pain, identity, politics—in order to rethink resistance outside of biopolitical logics, and without further implicating ourselves in them or reaffirming them unwittingly? In other words, how might we critically disaffirm biopolitics, disclaim its claim over us, without quite capitulating to and recirculating its tropes?


Ryan Leack
Meridith Kruse
Stuart Murray
Jan Osborn
Nick Leppe
Simon Turner
Samantha Rippetoe
Steven Mailloux

Sources Referenced

Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer, 1998.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus, 1987.
Foucault, Michel. Society Must Be Defended, 2003.
—. The Courage of the Truth, 2011.
—. The Government of Self and Others, 2010.
Gilmore, Ruth. “Race and Globalization.” In Geographies of Global Change, 2002.
Harney, Stephen Matthias, and Fred Moten. The Undercommons, 2013.
Hartman, Saidiya. Scenes of Subjection, 2007.
James, LeBron. “LeBron James Speaks on BLM: ‘When You’re Black, It’s not a Movement; It’s a Lifestyle’,” 2020, https://youtu.be/T6CkKIObfws.
Lundberg, Christian O. “Letting Rhetoric Be: On Rhetoric and Rhetoricity.” Philosophy & Rhetoric 46, no. 2 (2013): 247–55.
Massumi, Brian. Ontopower, 2015.
—. Parables for the Virtual, 2002.
Sharpe, Christina. In the Wake, 2016.
Weheliye, Alexander G. Habeas Viscus, 2014.
Williams, Patricia J. Alchemy of Race and Rights, 1992.
Žižek, Slavoj. Pandemic 2, 2020.

Notable Quotes from Stuart

"Biopolitics kills, albeit indirectly and in the passive voice. It kills in the name of life. And its dead are disavowed as collateral damage, opportunity costs, or negative externalities."
"Think of the pandemic’s socioeconomic and racializing powers. It’s all business-as-usual, a social compact that everyone more or less already 'knows' in the deniable modalities of an Orwellian doublethink. I maintain that we cannot innocently affirm the political project of making live because this livingness cannot be severed from those we let die in the name of life."
"In my efforts to theorize and to disaffirm, I ask how we might hearken our biopolitical dead. To hearken is an intransitive verb that does not take a direct object. To hearken I must undertake instead to listen in care of death. Under what conditions might we hearken those dead who summon us, and exhort us, perhaps, to reckon with our unspeakable complicity in their deaths?"
"In my words’ work, 'I' tentatively reach toward a fragile 'we,' curses notwithstanding. These subjects come undone—first-person, singular, plural—as much as they stubbornly remain—in the long moment of hearkening: and the project becomes one of holding and rendering remains."

9 episodes